memories

almost 12

Last night I was far too deep inside the “book” I was reading (it was an e-book, I can’t deny that I use those) and was long past tired, so it wasn’t until close to 1:30 am that I finally closed the iPad and pushed the switch on my bedside lamp. It took me at least 20 minutes to doze off and drop into a solid sleep. Not so solid, however, that I didn’t immediately awaken when my almost 12 year old son appeared at the side of my bed. “Mama, I had a bad dream.” I glanced at the clock before I scooted over against the wall and held the covers up for him to climb in beside me: 3:17. After a few minutes spent watching him, I felt confident enough in his slumber to close my eyes, trying to drift off. He moved about a bit and then, “Mama, my head hurts.” I asked him if he wanted a pill or just an ice pack and he decided on both. I checked the time when I climbed over top of him and back into bed: 3:43. Once he was lying still for 15 minutes I climbed back out and took myself and my alarm across the hall to his empty bed. I lay awake a while; listening in case he needed me; unable to settle because I was worried about not getting enough sleep. 7 am came fairly quickly. HardWorker was already gone, I had some time before I needed to get BoyGenius up and into the shower, and tried to plot out just when in the day I would fit a couple of naps in. My Fitbit app advised me that I had managed only four hours and six minutes of actual sleep — nothing I could do to change that. It was going to be a long Monday.

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For a few weeks now, I’ve been getting hit with the realization that I am about to be the parent of a 12 year old. How did this happen? I didn’t really plan on this. I mean, I know that’s how it works, if you’re extremely lucky: your children grow up and you all grow older together. But seriously, my plan was to have a baby, maybe a toddler. A 12 year old? I never really thought that far ahead. He’s in grade 6. And the school year is more than half over. His birthday parties now consist of 3-4 friends, pizza, a movie, and some video games. To be fair, they’ve been like that for a few years already; he’s always seemed two to three years ahead of his chronological age. Not that we’ve rushed him, or anyone’s expected him to be more mature, or anything like that; he’s just always had this “presence” and common sense, logical thought process and a wicked quick sense of humour, an easy-going nature and a thoughtful need for fairness, all combined with a solid sense of uniqueness and self. While most of those character traits have stood BoyGenius in good stead over his 12 years, he has also had to put up with disparaging comments about his sensitivity, his choice of hairstyle or shoe colour, his apparent “know-it-all”-ness, his book and movie preferences.

I still look at him in wonder at least once a day. He makes me laugh, he makes me cry, he makes me worry, he makes me proud. There is still so much for him to learn, but there is sooooo much that he already knows. There are things he does that frustrate me, and there are things he does that make my heart swell with amazement at who he has already become in his 12 short years. And the thing is, the person that he has become, and that he still has to grow into, that person has been there since day one. That personality was already in place with the first wave of his hand and kick of his foot in utero; the good-natured-ness, the sense of humour — already there.

Sometimes I miss my baby. Sometimes I miss my toddler. Most times I know that the young man sprawled across our couch or searching for food 15 minutes after dinner is the same guy. When my almost 12 year old gets awakened by a bad dream and needs to snuggle with Mama I am absolutely sure.

I love you, Schnucki.

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grade 6

this rascal is going into grade 6

this rascal is going into grade 6

A new school year starts tomorrow. BoyGenius is going into grade 6. The speed with which these kids grow up is almost surreal. Grade 6! I know we’ve done all the years, all the grades, but it still seems like there are a lot of holes — like we’ve skipped stuff. I know we haven’t; I know we live in different times, a different age than the one I grew up in, and as such BoyGenius’ childhood will be, must be different than the one I had. But does it have to go so fast? Did mine?

I think perhaps that when you are the child and you are living those years they aren’t as swift as when you are the parent. I certainly never felt like my childhood was slipping through my fingers; I remember something about every year, I think. I know that summers were long and hot and winters were long and snowy and school was something you went to every day and, for my part, anyway, enjoyed. I like to think that BoyGenius is having those same experiences, even if the events are different. He had two things he wanted to do this summer (neither of which happened): go to New York and go to Los Angeles. He went to summer camp and spent seemingly endless hours on his new gaming computer. We went to the beach a record low (for us) number of times but he was content with what he was doing. We did stuff, we just didn’t pack the weeks with outings. I’m the one feeling like we didn’t “accomplish” much, not him. He was happy. He is happy. HE IS HAPPY.

When I tucked him into bed tonight I asked him if there was any grade 6 “stuff” he needed me to tell him. He chuckled and said no. I asked him if he was excited for tomorrow. He chuckled again and said, “No, it’s school.” I asked if he was nervous, he laughed and said, “No, it’s school!” I said “Good.” I reminded him that he can talk to us about anything; if anything is unfair at school, or if there are any issues or problems with students or teachers, or anything at all he can come and tell me about it. He said, “Yes, I know.” All right, then. I kissed his newly shaved head (just the left side) and said good night. He seems happy.

This. This “no worries” attitude towards school starting. That’s all I need. That’s how I felt as a child: summer ends, school starts, no big whoop. He is happy. I am happy. HardWorker has a bit of anxiety (but that’s par for the course). In think we’re doing just fine.

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empty bed

BoyGenius is away at camp this week. Sleep-away camp, for the first time ever. I knew he would be fine, I knew I would be fine, and I knew HardWorker would be beside herself with anxiety and worry. (She was so beside herself that it was crowded here for a couple of days — she has since gotten better.)

I had no reason to believe that he would be homesick or feel out of his depth or anything at all like that. I know he’s having a blast (thanks to the modern miracles of INSTAGRAM and Twitter). Dropping him off on Sunday evening was fine for me, fine for him, and a huge deal for HardWorker. I had read her The Riot Act on Saturday and repeated it on Sunday morning: “You’re not going to say anything about him missing us (or the cat) or feeling homesick. You’re not going to tell him how bad you’re going to feel because he’s away. You are absolutely not going to suggest that if he feels like coming home all he has to do is text and you’ll come pick him up.” She thought maybe she shouldn’t come along to drop him off. Then realised that she’d probably do worse alone at home. It was hard work getting her to leave him at camp, let me tell you.

My mother asks everyday if there has been any word from BoyGenius. She asks every day if I miss him. I’m having a hard time convincing her that I don’t. That’s right. I don’t miss him. Like I said, I know he’s having fun, a fantastic childhood summer experience. I know he is secure enough in our love to just be able to enjoy himself. I am secure enough in both his love for me and my love for him to not miss him. He’ll be home tomorrow, for crying out loud. It’s not even a full week away. When I was 8 years old my brother BlueEyes (who was 12) and I went to Germany on our own. Sure, we had relatives meeting us and we were staying with them, but we flew across the Atlantic alone — and changed planes in one of the busiest airports in Europe. When we were only a few years older my parents put us on a cross-border Greyhound to visit friends in New Jersey for a week, and BlueEyes and I took the commuter train from Paramus into Manhattan almost every day — on our own. We went to see a show at Rockefeller Center, we went to the outside observation deck of the World Trade Center, we shopped in Times Square. Did my mother miss us those times we were away? She says she absolutely did, but I don’t think it stopped her from carrying on normally. We were responsible kids who were totally secure in and with our family units. I like to think I am raising my son the same way.

Do I miss him? Not in the way you might expect. Listen, when he’s been here this summer, he’s been in the basement most of the time. I’ve been able to build him a corner desk unit for his gaming computer — something I would not have been able to do had he been lounging around down there. I’ve done some laundry, baked a cake or two, been able to gloss over lunch and dinner since I didn’t have to worry about feeding him — so in other words, it’s been a pretty normal week for me. I am not feeling an empty space in my heart. I am not sad that he’s away, because I know that he’ll be home tomorrow. I am not worried about him because I know who he’s with and I know he’s having fun. So no, I don’t miss him.

I do notice his empty, nearly neatly made bed every time I walk by his room, though.

BoyGenius is totally asleep, on his stomach, with his left leg bent at the knee so his heel is touching his butt.

So instead of seeing this (yes, this IS how he often sleeps), I am only seeing the empty bed.

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rain

It’s raining. The gloriously heavy, warm-weathered, bright-sky-with-big-dark-clouds kind of rain of impossibly large drops that we used to enjoy when I was little. My brothers and I would be outside in our bathing suits and flip-flops or rubber boots getting soaked and squealing & laughing with delight. Sitting on the curb or dancing in the yard or splashing in the gulleys that ran as fast as they could to the nearest storm drain.

Thunder rumbles in the distance. The downspouts are flowing like fountains. The still hot pavement and steaming shingles smell like summer. The rain stops, the sky brightens. Until the next wave.

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